Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pigeons and People

The line formed slowly but steadily outside Reno's one homeless shelter. Men standing patiently, quietly on the sunny sidewalk adjacent to railroad tracks and on the back side of the minor league baseball team's outfield in the "Biggest Little City In the World."

Like clockwork, 2 men appeared, pushing a cart and carrying a card table. As they unfolded the legs, the men in the line perked up just a bit. Plastic bins filled with donuts were distributed, a free Dunkin' Donuts if you will. Each man selected his favorite and moved on, man after man after man. Most took a bite as they walked away.

I watched as one man took a bite, chewed vigorously, and then spat out the finely ground morsels, spraying them on the parking lot like a donut sprinkler. Hmmm. Wonder what that's about? He took a few steps repeating the ritual with no one paying him any mind, except the pigeons. They appeared to know him, waiting for him to distribute donut crumbs to the swarms of these "winged-rats" not lined up as orderly, but every bit as patient and expectant as their 2-legged human counterparts.

My dismay oozed forth, on many levels, as I thought of this dehumanizing ritual, 2 wordless but efficient donut distributors, dozens of men without homes. Death by donut probably won't be instant, nor will death by dignity destruction.

Wonder what kind of lives each of these men had before standing in this line? Wonder if their career plan included a survival donut break? Wonder if the distributors feel good about their "charity," serving day-old donuts to men and pigeons?

Sure, homeless people may get free stuff, but they have to wait a long time, and after all that it's not good for them anyhow. No coffee. No tables. No chairs. No dignity. No respect. Just like feeding pigeons.